14 April 2007

Which Machine?

Filed under: Psychology — ktismatics @ 4:50 pm

machine billboard

11pm: Samantha plays herself Videotronic. Choose the machine you resemble!

Most people want pretty much the same things: happiness, comfort, affection, community, health, esteem, entertainment, pleasure, money. The common wants can be fairly predictably satisfied. If you don’t know what you want, you look around and see what other people seem to want, people who seem happy, comfortable, successful — people you want to be. Demand generates more demand. The marketplace serves largely to satisfy these wants.

Then there are the “higher” and “deeper” things: knowledge, beauty, excellence, virtue. Climbing up or digging down demands effort, persistence, perhaps even self-denial. Instead of converging on what the others want, those who pursue higher and deeper endeavors diverge onto unexpected and divergent directions. Because they’re exploring the unknown, there’s no telling what will satisfy them. This a small, non-cohesive, discriminating and unpredictable smattering of individuals.

Suppose two psychotherapy shops open on the same street. One shop sells happiness, health, success, support, self-esteem. The other shop sells understanding, meaning, discipline, discovery. Both shops put a listing in the phone book, both charge the same fees. Which shop is likely to get more business? Which shop is more likely to satisfy the customers?



  1. Shop one, is going to get the most people in my opinion, specifically if it could follow through, Both though, would satisfy, but in the long haul, my choice would be shop 2. Have you ever read a book called Status anxiety by Alain De Botton? he talks about this a bit, and I have found his book to be the one I recommend to people the most, it makes you question your happiness and find it again in unusual places and situations. It certainly pulls you from trying to “buy” it.
    How are you John?


    Comment by Ivan — 15 April 2007 @ 5:11 am

  2. Ivan –

    I’m okay, thanks for asking. We want to start up a part-time counseling service, and we’re also currently trying to decide whether now is the time to return to “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Are you still in France, or have you gone back down under?

    I’ve only skimmed this book, and I believe the author is onto something. I suppose the trick is this: you and I can transcend petty concerns of status and imitative demand stimulated by advertising, thereby joining the cultural elite. But if we offer a service geared toward this elite, are there enough of them around to be a market? If there are, is there a way of reaching them that doesn’t seem like the same old advertising strategies? Can the elite market distinguish the “higher and deeper” product from the shallow product sitting next to it on the shelf? I have absolutely no marketing instinct, so I find myself at a loss trying to figure this part out.


    Comment by ktismatics — 15 April 2007 @ 10:18 am

  3. John, I agree that option 2 is better but more difficult. One thing I’ve noticed is that the odd stuff is much easier to access with the net. We regularly get groups for ecotourism who want the ‘pure experience’ and like what we do coz we do a cost only + whatever you feel like donating thing and they like it that it’s not commercial.

    We’ve never advertised and we don’t do any of the usual tour services like tickets and stuff, so we were ourselves quite surprised when it started trickling in and purely word of mouth, email, blogs and stuff that brings in the groups.

    But, have you thought of perhaps England rather than heading back to the U.S. The therapist market is so saturated in America (from what I can see) that getting established may not be that easy.


    Comment by samlcarr — 15 April 2007 @ 3:03 pm

  4. That’s great about your service. It’s the way I’d like to proceed as well. I wonder about being visible in the crowd. Let’s say the market is full of option1 therapists but very few option2 therapists. Say somebody wants an option2 experience. I doubt whether this potential client be able to weed through all the option1 market saturation to find the option2 offerings. The market is a local one, so it’s possible the word would get around eventually. Maybe some fliers with ktismatics-like meditations and a revised blog that describes our option2 approach.


    Comment by ktismatics — 15 April 2007 @ 3:42 pm

  5. Yes, that sounds good. The blogworld and the level of interconnectivity as well as people’s desire to find a community that they can really fit in to will help a lot but you do have to have your tags there and do a bit of stuff like Digging to get the word out. The search engines also need to be very actively mined, but I’m sure you are already into that. Stuff like google ads are very niche oriented which helps a lot!


    Comment by samlcarr — 15 April 2007 @ 5:04 pm

  6. Hi,
    I know friends who started therapy shops. They have websites rather than blogs, but blogs might give more confidence. They might leave flyers at dentists, doctor’s waiting rooms, hospitals,…
    I also used to know a few friends who developped a kind of internet therapy. I would think you would develop another kind, more literary. With advice on what books to read to go to the next level. Plus comments.
    Some sort of personnal development.


    Comment by Odile — 16 April 2007 @ 1:33 am

  7. “some fliers with ktismatics-like meditations” may be a good idea but may also be a bit intimidating. I think you need to develop some materials for “A, B and C” types of readers, which should prove challenging.

    Odile’s online therapy idea also sounds interesting.


    Comment by samlcarr — 16 April 2007 @ 3:29 am

  8. Odile and Sam –

    Perhaps a more literary approach is right. Maybe instead of leaving flyers at doctors’ offices I leave them in bookstores. Ktismatics is heavily weighted toward my own interests, which means it doesn’t appeal to everybody. Still, some people (the elite, bien sur) do show up anyway. I think I would shift the focus of at least some of the blog posts toward more distinctly personal topic — less about designing a therapy shop, more about alienation, say, or trying to make yourself understood in a world obsessed with status and entertainment. I can assume that most people will not find this sort of thing interesting, but some will. They’re the ones that might give me a phone call. I think I’ll probably try to build on the foundation of listening and interpretation, oriented a little more specifically toward the creative types. Fortunately we’re thinking about moving to a university town, highly educated population, many entrepreneurs, also many people who might be deemed “lifestyle artists” — explorers of alternative ways of being. I appreciate your reactions and your thoughts about this, because it helps me focus on what I really could do and with whom.


    Comment by ktismatics — 16 April 2007 @ 8:10 am

  9. Tell them that in addition to going deeper and higher one side effect is that your sex appeal will increase by 40%…..


    Comment by Jonathan Erdman — 16 April 2007 @ 2:26 pm

  10. Wait a minute. Are you suggesting that my “higher and deeper” thing is some kind of pornographic code phrase?


    Comment by ktismatics — 16 April 2007 @ 3:00 pm

  11. Ha! the marketing master speaks!


    Comment by samlcarr — 17 April 2007 @ 6:19 am

  12. The subliminal advertising stuff really works. I say go for it. Use the power of Freudian sexual suggestion.


    Comment by Jonathan Erdman — 17 April 2007 @ 2:35 pm

  13. Okay, John, maybe you can wear a pink fuzzy dress too…

    (For the reference, see the Paris, Texas post).

    Meilleurs voeux!!


    Comment by bluevicar — 17 April 2007 @ 3:54 pm

  14. Can I borrow yours?


    Comment by ktismatics — 17 April 2007 @ 6:02 pm

  15. Hi John,

    I am back in Australia and very happy to be here. What I saw of Europe was so darn interesting but I can see why my wife loves the idea of living downunder. Or on top when you think about the fact there is no real up or down.
    If you have that book John, read it through, its extremely thought provoking, there is another called Afluenza, similar type of thing but Bottons book is better, he also does something on happiness.
    If you retrun to the US, make sure you get a gun won’t you?
    I think there would be a market, your best chance of reaching them is by entering the US via the East, and get some guru clothes on the way. This idea does have legs.



    Comment by Ivan — 17 April 2007 @ 11:07 pm

  16. Ivan –

    I’m glad you had a good time and made it back home in one piece. No real up or down? Dude, you’re messing with my mind now. I finally placed my order for Davies’ new book, so I can get up to speed on anthropic principle and related cosmic concerns. My wife read Affluenza and thought it was good, but I failed to read it myself. The town we might move back to has a permanent epidemic of affluenza. It’s haven for “bobos” — bourgeois bohemians, self-expressive types who buy $7,000 mountain bikes. Bobos in Paradise is kind of an interesting book illuminating this phenomenon. Gun? No thanks. Guru clothes? This town in Colorado is home to a Buddhist university and a lot of bobo weekend Buddhists.


    Comment by ktismatics — 18 April 2007 @ 9:35 am

  17. John,

    You will like Davies I’m sure. He isn’t your regular nerdy Scientist he is straight down the middle, and some of his best debates has been with atheists here. I found it very thought provoking. I liked Status anxiety better than Affluenza, it went into the psychology in more detail (or so it seemed so).
    On Guns, This is weird for us Australians when we travel, going through airports that have people milling around with automatic weaponry, Singapore for example, and the shops in both France and Germany selling arms, its so unusual for us here. The very sad and tragic events of Virginia, had many interviews heard on the radio, I heard three separate interviewers lament that the university didn’t allow the students to be armed, I guess expecting some student to “take down” the gunman. Its a very different world to us here.
    John have you read any of Shermers books? I have finally got Russell’s letter to a Christian nation to read (and about 15 others)


    Comment by Ivan — 18 April 2007 @ 10:45 pm

  18. The murder rate in the US is about half what it was 25 years ago, which is the good news. Still, it’s 3 times as high as Australia, GB, Canada. Strangely, Australia’s murder rate is 3 times as high as Saudi Arabia, home of bin Laden and most of the 9/11 killers. Most violent crime in the US is poor on poor; the school shooters are real anomalies.

    Shermer writes against creationism? No, haven’t read him. Sam Harris is the Letter to a Christian Nation guy; I read his prior book and didn’t care for it much. I didn’t think he succeeded in pinning violent political regimes on religious fervor. I’m more prone to blaming hereditary tendencies in the species that encourage us-versus-them behavior. If you can justify killing the outsiders by some presumably high ideology, be it religious or atheistic, it just serves to reinforce what evolution already set in motion. I personally believe that Christianity is a far more peaceful religion on paper than either Judaism or Islam. So there must be something besides the religion itself that spurs the Crusades.


    Comment by ktismatics — 19 April 2007 @ 1:06 pm

  19. No John. Shermer just writes about science generally. He wrote a book titled why people believe weird things and it was quite interesting. “weird” encompassed his own personal beliefs. I thought I should read Harris because he kept getting mentioned from time to time.


    Comment by Ivan — 19 April 2007 @ 11:23 pm

  20. John,

    Where did you get those murder rate stats from? do you remember?


    Comment by Ivan — 19 April 2007 @ 11:24 pm

  21. International comparative rates here. United States yearly totals here. I picked up Status Anxiety at the local library yesterday — in English.


    Comment by ktismatics — 20 April 2007 @ 4:06 am

  22. Thanks John. Hey would you tell me what you think of both that and the Davies book when your finished? I’d love to know what you thought of them both.



    Comment by Ivan — 21 April 2007 @ 6:03 am

  23. I’ve got to return Status Anxiety to the library by 10 May, so hopefully I’ll have something to report by then. Davies will be awhile longer before I have the book in my hands.


    Comment by ktismatics — 21 April 2007 @ 10:35 am

  24. I finished reading the Harris book. He seems like an angry kinda guy to me.



    Comment by Ivan — 29 April 2007 @ 3:10 am

  25. In his first book he was pretty aggressive in condemning all religions equally, except for Buddhism which he seemed to advocate. Maybe in the furor over that first book he got even more polarized and angry. Angry at Christian Americans?

    I’ve read about half of Status Anxiety. He started off with a bang talking about desire for status. The general theme is interesting, that everyone in Western society has reasonable expctations for being recognized and resepected and materially comfortable and successful. I’ll carry on with it and report back later.


    Comment by ktismatics — 29 April 2007 @ 6:07 am

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